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BREXIT

Macron: Renegotiating Brexit backstop is ‘not an option’

French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed demands from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to renegotiate the UK's exit from the European Union, saying it was "not an option."

Macron: Renegotiating Brexit backstop is 'not an option'
Photo: AFP

Commenting on Johnson's letter to the EU demanding the reopening of negotiations on the Irish border, Macron said that the bloc had always been clear it would not agree.

“Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by (EU) President Tusk,” Macron said ahead of a working lunch with Johnson in Paris on Thursday.

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Johnson has demanded that the EU drop an arrangement to prevent border controls returning between Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland, which is known as the “backstop.”

The backstop means Britain and Northern Ireland would keep its regulations – for things such as health and safety or food standards – aligned with the EU until it has signed a trade deal with the bloc in the future.

A return of border controls on divided Ireland could lead to a flare up in fighting on the island, which was plagued by decades of violence over British rule there.

Macron argued that Johnson's demand to scrap the backstop was “not a good method” because it had been negotiated over the last two years between the EU and Johnson's predecessor Theresa May.

And he said it amounted to giving the EU an unacceptable choice between either protecting its internal market by reintroducing border controls at the Irish border, or preserving peace on the island.

But he dismissed any suggestion that the EU would be to blame for a no-deal Brexit, which one of his aides said earlier was becoming the “most likely” scenario.

“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.

Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.

Macron called the Brexit process a “British democratic crisis” and he renewed his criticism of the 2016 referendum that saw the British public narrowly vote to leave the union.

It resulted from a “government asking the people to choose (whether to leave the EU), perhaps in a simplistic fashion, without telling them how it would be done.”

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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport. 

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